17 AUGUST 2020 The Nation (Nairobi) By Aggrey Mutambo
Somalia’s Mudolood clan is re-assembling for political power as the country’s leaders haggle on the type of elections.
Last week, the clan gathered in Mogadishu for a ‘Peace Forum’, but the participants included big names in Somalia’s political sphere.
Among them were former Presidents Ali Mahdi Muhammad, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud as well as former ministers including opposition leader Abdirahman Adbdishakur who leads Wadajir Party.
The list of speakers also included Galmudug Federal State President Abdi Karie ‘Qoorqoor’ as well as various serving and retired diplomats, military officers and business people.
At the end of the meeting, the group said it opposed any delays in elections and called for wide-ranging consultations on the type and date of elections.
The clan issued a call for political leaders to decide how Mogadishu should be governed. As the capital of the country, the city belongs to no federal state, raising questions on how local resources should be administered.
The participants also opposed any admittance of foreign troops not allied with the African Union Mission in Somalia.
With this, they were indirectly targeting Ethiopia which some of the speakers at the forum accused of sending troops to oppress critics of the government.
While the call for timely elections is shared by most of Somalia’s partners including the US, and federal states as well as most opposition parties, the clan’s decision to announce a declaration is being seen in the eyes of Somalia’s history.
The Mudolood are traditionally a sub-clan of the larger Hawiye Clan in Somalia. In constant coalition with other Hawiye clans like the Abgaal and Habar-Gidir, they have often run the show in Somalia.
It has produced ex-Presidents Ali Mahdi Mohamed, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and occupies most of Benadir region (Mogadishu) as well as neighbouring central Somalia regions such as Hirshabelle and Mudug, part of Galmudug state.
When Mudolood issued the statement last week, Habar-gidir endorsed it.
The two sub-clans coalesced in the United Somali Congress (USC) to remove Siad Barre in the 1990s before splitting between Farah Aidid, who was against the Americans, and Ali Mahdi Mohammud, who favoured foreign support.
“After ousting Siad Barre, they disagreed among themselves but now they are uniting again. That can form a dangerous political move for opponents,” said a Somali diplomat who attended the meeting
“It is true that people may be returning to the clans but what do you do with the leaders who cannot listen? Farmaajo seems to be keen on revenge against those who ousted his uncle,” the official said referring to a distant relationship between Somalia’s President and Siad Barre.
Barre had appointed Farmaajo a diplomat and posted him to the US before he was ousted in the 1990s.
Now, the group may be using its strong lineage to push for their common political goal of recapturing power, argued Hawa Noor, a PhD fellow for Global Governance and Regional Integration at the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (University of Bremen).
“Factors such as clan lineage are often used to bring people together for other superior goals. I doubt their interest is to raise the Hawiye flag because others in power, and who the FNP oppose, are also from the same clan and so it is beyond the simple clan calculations,” Ms Noor told the EastAfrican in an interview on Thursday.
She referred to the opposition alliance Forum for National Parties, led by Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, but which includes parties led by other clans.
“They are a powerful group and anything is possible in my opinion but there are other bigger questions. Will an election be possible in the first place before the February 2021 end of Farmajo’s term or will Somalia fall back to selection?”
Somalia is currently debating when to hold the election and whether to use the previous controversial methods of clan delegates or a hybrid system.
Leaders generally agree universal suffrage is time-barred but President Mohamed Farmaajo has been under pressure to organise timely election regardless of mode.
In public, he has indicated it will be free and fair. Opponents still can’t trust him.
Even if Somalia holds a hybrid election, which may mean registering more voters than in the past, Ms Noor argued many left out will be disenfranchised, raising questions about fairness in the election.
Whether the Mudolood will influence when to hold elections or not may be determined by other factors such as a legal regime being approved in time and the allocation of money.
The clan’s presence in strategic parts of Somalia, in Mogadishu as well as its influential role in the past in rebuilding the country means it plays an important role, argued Somali Researcher Abdimalik Abdullahi.
“Their view on national issues ought to be given the consideration it deserves,” he told the EastAfrican.
But its emergence in the past weeks has raised questions on whether at all Somalia can escape clan politics.
“It will be quite hypocritical or naive to ignore the role and place of the clan in the political makeup of present-day Somalia,” Mr Abdullahi said.
“If at all clans are gathering to discuss pressing issues devoid of incitement and call for violence against fellow Somali clans, I don’t see any reason anyone should raise an unnecessary alarm.
“However, we can’t ignore the fact that the Somali state is still at an embryonic post-conflict stage and clan gatherings can depict a possible and potential signal of some sections of the society dissatisfied with the way the affairs of the state are run.”